Food Made in Italy: the passion of Vito Gulli

We meet Vito Gulli, President of Generale Conserve (its brand portfolio includes AsDoMar, Manzotin, and De Rica), pioneer of the revamp of the italian food complex, that will answer questions from our editorial staff and some of our food bloggers.

1) What episode jumpstarted your passion about food?
I am sorry to disappoint you, but food is not my passion. Even though I believe I am an eclectic all-rounder, when it comes to food I am the most monotonous and monothematic person in the world.
My passion, so to speak, is for “Made in Italy” food, as I’ve been investing on it over the last seven years as the only way out of this terrible crisis – that I had foreseen – and also as a way – and I am being upfront about it – to do business. And at the same time, to create opportunities for this wonderful land where I would like my children and grand children to have the chance to keep living.

2) If you were to invite to dinner a foreign friend, visiting Italy for the first time, what typical dish would you recommend?
I confessed before to being so monothematic and simple in my eating habits to the point of being boring for whomever cooks for me… I have a preference though… almost mystical, and therefore I would propose a beautiful, olive oil dripping focaccia genovese, of which I am a lover more than a fan.
Imagine that when I, barely in my 20’s, started working in Milan, I was paying for my daily return train trip from Genova, by contrabanding 10/20 kg of focaccia, still warm from the oven, to be sold to a bakery in Porta Genova…
And for the remainder (of the dinner)… I’d propose first courses, pastas and risottos, our true exclusives.

3) In your opinion, what is the least known abroad “Made in Italy” product?
Well, you touch me right where it hurts… surely canned tuna!
It’s easy to understand why… in the US, 70% of the product sold, goes into sandwiches… crumbled, spreaded… of course if you sell a nice, compact piece of tuna… people get mad, because they have to reduce it into crumbles…

4) About the Italian Sounding phenomenon, how do you think it can be struggled?
No way. I disagree with the overrated theme of the Italian Sounding as a chimera, as an opportunity to fight and to take advantage of.
This is not the problem and I always repeat it in the various meeting in which I take part.
The real problem is the “true false”, let me explain it.
How can we prevent that someone start up a community, or even that someone has an Italian name, so is allowed to call his product with his name?
In Italy too, how many successful communities remind to foreign names?
We have to fight against the Italian communities which delocalize, or produce in Italy but using semi- manufactured, most of the materials that comes from countries with lower labour and production costs.They show a massive entrepreneurial myopia.
When all the factories in Italy will be closed, to who they will sell their low-cost product? Which kind of entrepreneurs are those who don’t look for in long-term, but only in short-term? This is the real problem.
Delocalization and importation of too many semi-manufactured.

Questions from our food bloggers Alida zamparini and Jessica Montanari

5) Seen the effort and interest of AsDoMar for the environment and other social issues, do you think the same could happen for canned meat? (Alida Zamparini)

If I were to do otherwise, I would contradict and hurt myself… I’m working on it… It’s diffucult but possible. I will succeed!

6) People talked a lot about the AsDoMar decision to invest in Sardinia. Why an entrepreneur, free to delocalize and pay low-cost labour, would choose to stay in Italy? (Jessica Montanari)
As I was saying before, but I explain it clearly now, an entrepreneur should be worried to preserve at least two things: his raw material and the purchasing power of his user.
Without these two elements, he can be the best entrepreneur in the world, but with business he can’t make so much. Well, of course, if he is only interested in money…
We have to preserve, better, we have to capitalize the expertise of our history, of our trades. This is what I’ve done in Sardinia.

7) Do you think we can say that Italy could exit from the crisis directing only (or almost) on the enhancement of the territory, so on food industry, culture and tourism? (Jessica Montanari)
No, absolutely not. I try to explain it: of course the enhancement of the territory goes through tourism and culture, but the point is if we want to continue to be 60 million people, and as I hope, we don’t want to be reduced to 30 million people.
Without farming and factories, without farmers and factory workers, our land is going to die.
We are not Liechtenstein, we can’t live with the tertiary sector. So I say yes to the enhancement of the territory, intended as produce and use with priority what we produce.
You buy what I produce, I buy what you produce.
Kind of throwback to the swap, not with goods but with jobs.
It’s the only and last chance to survive…

8) Generale Conserve has recently acquired De Rica. Which are the projects to revitalize this big brand that has ever represented the Made in Italy?
I think that De Rica is and always will be the biggest business in my life. Which other brand so Italian can be able to offer so many products like De Rica? Only another one: Star, but if you afford me I would say that De Rica reminds more to nature than to industry… So, for me, for my R&D, for my marketing, it’s going to be amusing.
Sure, here too we will be careful to respect the environment and the people, the raw material and the users, in other words, workers.
Because in my opinion the workers will be the protagonist of the economic recovery with their conscious decisions, motivated with the awareness of the necessity of the swap of the jobs, always in the respect of the environment.